The internet still hasn’t finished exploding over Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ (which I still haven’t figured out how to listen to, help!) — and already, her artistic genius is being overshadowed by White Fragility. Iggy Azalea went on a Twitter rant about how Beyonce’s use of the name “Becky” as a white stereotype was as offensive as racial slurs like “the n word”. Piers Morgan wrote a very whiny and uninteresting article about how he preferred it when Beyonce was “less inflammatory [and] agitating” and how he wishes she’d stop “playing the race card”. It may have been that line that got the biggest eye roll from me. Because there is no race card for people of colour. And I can’t believe fragile white people still think there might be. Say it with me: there is no such thing as reverse racism.
White people are quick to point out the “unfairness” that we are not allowed to racially abuse people of colour, which is a rather petty thing to complain about when people of colour are campaigning against much bigger injustices — like, oh I don’t know, the fact that the police keep shooting them.
But let’s pretend for a second that the right to be a racist prick is something worth fighting for. And let’s put a pin in the fact that racist jokes are already prevalent in pop culture. Let’s totally shut our eyes to reality, as all fragile white people must be doing, and just focus on how it’s so unfair that white people sometimes get in trouble for making racist jokes, whereas Beyonce is totally getting away with using the name “Becky” as a white stereotype.
Oh my god, that’s such reverse racism! How dare Beyonce assume my name is Becky?! That’s not even close to my name. As a white person not actually called Becky, I feel so attacked!
Jeez, it’s hard work to summon up that much white fragility. Because being stereotyped under the name Becky? It’s meaningless. It doesn’t hurt us in any way. Does it perpetuate an ugly history of institutionalised oppression? Nope. If anyone gets confused and assumes we all actually are called Becky, it going to affect our chances of getting a job? Er, no — white names are considered much more employable.
You know what the effects might be of being stereotyped as a white person? Getting paid more. Being less likely to be sent to prison (even for the same crimes). Not being killed by the police. You know, all that kind of unfairness.
There’s no such thing as reverse racism. When people joke that “white people can’t dance”, that’s not reverse racism either. It doesn’t stop white people from getting into dance school, from getting jobs as dancers, from making a successful living as a dancer. It doesn’t stop ballet dancing being a predominantly white art. In fact, it doesn’t stop white people from appropriating Black dance culture and being praised for it. Miley Cyrus is the name that pops into most people’s minds when you hear the word “twerking”; she has made a fortune from a dance move that, when seen on Black people, is dismissed as aggressively sexual. (And yes, of course Miley received these same criticisms — but the blow was probably softened by the hefty pay check that came with it.)
White people can dance just fine — and I’m not talking about their talent. White people still have the freedom and the power to dance just fine — despite “racist” stereotypes to the contrary. Oh, and white people aren’t being forced to drink pumpkin spiced lattes, either.
Whereas when a racial stereotype is levelled at a person of colour, it means something. Justin Simien, the writer and director of Dear White People sums this up: “A joke about white people dancing has no impact on the lives of average white people, whereas jokes about black people and reinforcing stereotypes about black people do have an impact on the lives of everyday black people.”
Got it? There is no such thing as reverse racism — because racial stereotypes already work in our favour. No, Iggy Azalea, Beyonce calling white women “Becky” is not the same as calling all Asian women “Ming Lee” or calling all Black women “Sha nay nay”. Because our society already assumes that we’re all “Becky” — and rewards us for it.